On Monday evening, women’s Italy was eliminated in the first round of the European Football Championships in England. She did not show up to win them, but as a possible surprise and with a realistic goal: the return to the quarter-finals, in which she had not participated since 2013 and which instead had been joined at the World Cup three years ago.
Everything went wrong, right from the opening minutes of the first match against France which, although favored and superior, was facilitated in the victory by an unprepared and defenseless Italy. The impact on the debut, particularly with the five goals conceded in the first half – no team in the history of the European Championships had suffered as many in just 45 minutes – marked more than anything else the short journey made in the tournament, as they said. the same players after the elimination on Monday evening.
«We knew that the European Championship would be a difficult tournament and that this group would be balanced, except for France. The first match conditioned us from the point of view of tranquility, ”said technical commissioner Milena Bertolini after the decisive defeat against Belgium. Laura Giuliani, owner in goal, went after her saying: «The biggest regret is that of not having given everything».
From the initial 5-1 everything went uphill and the team was no longer able to recover, even against close opponents such as Iceland and Belgium. He thus ended his group without a win – as had not happened since 2005 – after two defeats and a draw. Among these four national teams, he had the worst defense, with 7 goals conceded against only 2 facts.
Bertolini had tried to straighten the team by changing formation in all three games played, but the result did not change and indeed, the same trend was repeated over and over again. In the early days, Italy struggled to get into the game, they were slow in their movements and always made many technical mistakes, suffering their opponents more than they should. Six of the seven goals conceded came in the early stages, while Belgium’s goal was scored in the second half just beginning.
The reactions came only in situations of disadvantage and often had the effect of throwing the team forward: against France this imbalance led to three goals being conceded in the seven minutes before half-time, when there were already two goals behind. . In the second against Iceland, the spaces granted in defense in the second half did not cost goals only due to the imprecision and fatigue of the opponents. Against Belgium, Italy’s control of the game was more evident after the disadvantage, but between nervousness and fatigue there was a lack of precision and clarity in the plays, often confusing, hasty and ended in the wrong way.
During the tournament there has often been talk of fatigue and physical superiority of the opponents, but the data collected by the staff of the national team does not say this, as Bertolini explained after the last game and as some players also reiterated: on the contrary, the Italy would have covered the same distances on the pitch as their opponents, if not more. It is true, however, that the players from Juventus – 9 out of 23 and almost all owners – came from the longest season ever played, with 41 official matches between the league and cups: a frequency they were not used to.
The lack of contribution of some of them weighed heavily, starting with the goals: the only two were scored by Valentina Bergamaschi and Martina Piemonte, a winger and a reserve center forward, both from Milan. Even a player with a usually constant performance like Sara Gama – captain both at Juventus and in the national team – found herself in great difficulty, so much so that she was replaced in defense in the last game, also due to persistent physical problems.
On the other hand, midfielder Valentina Cernoia, one of the most experienced and non-replaceable for quality, game vision and technical characteristics (she is one of the few left-handed and the best on set pieces), was missing for coronavirus positivity a few hours after her debut with France. Cernoia would have been an immovable starter, but she was only able to make her debut in the final minutes against Belgium.
In a tournament where everything is decided in a few games and where there is not much time to solve problems, an elimination in the first round can be counted on. In this case, however, the disappointment is evident, also due to the expectations surrounding the national team and the Italian women’s movement in general, whose growth was confirmed with the recent transition to professionalism in the Serie A championship. “Let’s say that the expectations were very high. and perhaps even excessive. In the World Cup we have done something extraordinary, we have gone beyond our possibilities, and the World Cup in the group stage is easier than in the European Championship. But I know what the value of this team is and I think we could have done more »said Bertolini.
There were no official statements or comments from the federation (FIGC), whose president Gabriele Gravina was not in England for other unspecified commitments. The absence was noted, also because at the end of the tournaments the federal managers usually intervene on the spot to make a brief point of the situation and, if necessary, to renew the trust in the project or in the technical staff, in particular this one, which is linked to the federation until next year.
After the elimination from the European Championship, however, Italy will soon have the opportunity to make up for it, given that in September there will be the last two qualifying matches for the next World Cup, in which it is first in its group with two points clear of the Swiss. On 2 and 6 September she will play against Moldova and Romania: she just needs to keep her advantage in the standings to directly qualify for the final round scheduled for 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.
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